On the same day I received letters from two readers calling my attention to a new kind of word called a sniglet.
A sniglet is succinctly defined as “any word that doesn’t appear in the dictionary, but should.”
Mrs. Richard S. Skinner of Balboa Island sends me a column from The Whale, a newspaper in her home town of Rehoboth Beach, Del., whose author notes the appearance of a book called “Sniglets” (Collier Books, Macmillan), by Rich Hall and Friends.
Evidently Hall first introduced sniglets on the HBO television program called “Not Necessarily the News,” and the book is a collection not only of his own sniglets but of many sent in by viewers.
Coincidentally, Bill Josephs of Santa Monica wrote that he had encountered sniglets on his printout of a worldwide computer network called UNIX, and thought they were delightful, since they described “a human being all too familiar to each of us--that person we see each morning in the mirror.”
The English language is so rich in words that one wonders what we need with more of them; but who doesn’t every day discover some little article that needs a name, or some frustrating situation that seems to have none. For example, some of Hall’s sniglets:
Anaception. n. The body’s ability to actually affect television reception by moving about the room.
Bathquake. n. The violent quake that rattles the entire house when the water faucet is turned to a certain point.
Bleemus. n. The disgusting film on the top of soups and cocoa that sit out for too long.
Brimplet. n. A frayed shoelace that must be moistened to pass through a shoe eyelet.
Bumperglints. n. The small reflective obstacles in the middle of interstate highways which supposedly keep drivers awake and on the track.
As you might have noticed, and as the columnist of The Whale observes, “the definitions are far superior to the words supposed to make them mean something.”
He adds: “When the invented word seems to really match the definition, the combined result is amusing, but this miracle does not occur too often. For instance, ‘possessing the ability to turn the bathtub faucet on an off with your toes’ is the source for aquadextrous, but wouldn’t toe-facile have been a mite better . . . ?”
Well, maybe a mite. In the first place, there is no use having a word for things that don’t happen to enough of us to be commonplace. For example, everyone has experienced that unpleasant reaction to someone running his fingernails down a chalkboard. What should the word be for that? Hall’s is chalktrauma.
These two aren’t bad:
Chwads. n. The small, disgusting wads of chewed gum commonly found beneath table and counter tops.
Cinemuck. n. The combination of popcorn, soda and melted chocolate that covers movie theater floors.
And of course the wads of gum you find under your seat would be cinechwads.
Here are some more of Hall’s better ones:
Elbonics. n. The actions of two people maneuvering for one armrest in a movie theater.
Expressholes. n. People who try to sneak more than the “eight items or less” into the express checkout line.
Flannister. n. The plastic yoke that holds a six-pack of beer together. (Some name is certainly needed for this dreadful device. I don’t know whether flannister will do. Did you ever reach into a refrigerator and try to extract a can or bottle of beer from the grip of one of those plasticollars?)
Flotion. n. The tendency when sharing a water bed to undulate for five minutes every time the other person moves. (I’ve never shared a water bed with anyone, but flotion isn’t a bad word for the experience described.)
Genderplex. n. The predicament of a person in a theme restaurant who is unable to determine his or her designated bathroom (e.g., turtles and tortoises).
I have never encountered turtles and tortoises, but I have had genderplex trying to distinguish between cowboys and cowgirls, aviators and aviatrixes, and others of those cute symbols on rest room doors.
Gleemule. n. (a unit of measure) One unit of toothpaste, measured from bristle to bristle. (Not to be confused with gleemites , which are petrified deposits of toothpaste found in sinks.)
Hempennant. n. Any coattail, cuff, or dress hem dangling outside the door of a moving vehicle.
Hozone n. The place where one sock in every laundry load disappears to.
Hystioblogination. n. The act of trying to identify a gift by holding it to your ear and shaking it.
Idiot box. n. The part of the envelope that tells a person where to place the stamp.
Ignisecond. n. The overlapping moment of time when the hand is locking the car door even as the brain is saying ‘my keys are in there.’
Mcmonia. n. (chemical symbol: Mc) Noxious gas created by fast-food employee mopping under your table while you’re eating.
Magniphobia. n. The fear that the object in the side mirror is much much closer than it appears.
Marp. n. The impossible-to-find beginning of a roll of cellophane tape.
Napjerk. n. The sudden convulsion of the body just as one is about to doze off.
Mustgo. n. Any item of food that has been sitting in the refrigerator so long it has become a science project.
Stroodle. n. The annoying strand of cheese stretching from a slice of hot pizza to one’s mouth.
What I need is a word for a person who owns at least five pairs of reading glasses, but manages to misplace them all at once.